Do you dream? I don’t mean the go to bed at night dreams, but dreams as in what you want in your life or what you want your life to look like? I think all of us have big dreams when we’re young. The world then is a huge place when we’re small and we haven’t yet come to understand that the moon and stars may just be beyond our reach.
Of course, we all grow up and our understanding of the world becomes more complex. Our understanding of our place in the grand scheme of things becomes more complex as well.
When I was very young, I remember dreaming of being a veterinarian (a dream I think many little girls have). I also remember dreaming of being able to sing on national television and hearing people cheer for me. I’m sure there were others, but these are the two that I can actively remember dreaming. I also remember that I wasn’t very old before I learned that dreams don’t always come true…
…and then I stopped dreaming altogether.
Maybe this was because, as a child of an abusive parent, I never felt I was on solid ground; I never felt that the world around me was a safe place to share my wishes and hopes. Family members that were supposed to protect me left me open to abuse or participated in abuse leaving me feeling shattered and empty. I was been beaten down so many times that the idea of working that hard for something I wanted was more than I could fathom and the negative words and actions that came my way on a regular basis convinced me that I neither had the ability to make things happen that were good nor was I a person that was worthy of having dreams come true. I came to think that somehow I had done something horrible – or that I was a horrible person – and that my life would be spent on the sidelines seeing others obtain their most obscure dreams while the ache in my heart would grow bigger with every lost hope.
It took a long time for me to get to a point where I felt that I was good enough as a person to see a dream or two realized; that the negative things around me didn’t need to perpetuate themselves. Some of this came from taking responsibility for the negative energy I was putting out in the universe and realizing that while it may have seemed that I was cursed in some way, the world didn’t really “have it in for me”. But this didn’t happen before I had let a good number of dreams die.
Some of those dreams died quickly and sometimes they died a very slow and painful death and left remnants of themselves behind creating a vortex that seemingly sucked the life out of other the dreams that were left.
I never really understood why the death of a dream could be so profoundly painful until I watched Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.
In this musical, Mr. Sondheim deals with several children’s fables and there are many lessons and truths presented by the individual characters and stories, but the one that stuck with me comes from the witch.
The song, Children Will Listen reminds the listener that the things we say have impact on those around us. Much like the things I heard when I was a child that were hurtful and ended up impacting the dreams – or lack thereof – I had growing up, the words we speak have the power to help or hurt; to feed or to starve.
While this message is powerful in and of itself, the sentence that truly struck me was, “wishes are children”.
Wow. What a profound statement!
The more I thought about this, the more I realized how true this really is.
Dreams are those things that we all hold closest to our hearts. They are a glimmer of a thought on the horizon of our life. When they initially come to us, they may be just a niggling in our brains but they grow with every “what if” and “if only” thought that ventures through. As time goes on, these dreams are a part of us; a ring we desperately want to grasp.
The problem is, dreams are also fragile. Negative words, thoughts and actions chip away at the delicate shell of each dream and cause it to disappear in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, all of that effort; that blood, sweat and tears were for naught.
We must treat our dreams as delicately as we treat our children. If we don’t, we risk at best stifling the ability for them to grow and at worst, suffocating them altogether.
Mr. Sondheim also wisely points out that wishes may come true, but they are not free. They cost us our time, our love, our energy, and a bit of our identity. Like children, they are not ours to keep forever. Rather, they must be given away so they can be the true gift they were intended to be.
We must love them, nourish them, encourage them and guide them. In the end, we must also be prepared for them to take on a life of their own to become what they were intended to be. This, as I look back, may actually be what caused my dreams to die and create the large vortex of pain I experienced.
I wanted so desperately to hold on to the dreams that I allowed into my heart that I held on too tightly, never letting the ideas to be spoken aloud or the vision to be seen by others. I was so sure that someone else would crush what I had inside of me that I crushed it first.
I understand so clearly the desire to hold tightly to the things that mean a lot to us; to be able to be there every moment to see the successes – and to be able to take the accolades for those successes – and to also wipe away the evidence failures that will inevitably happen as quickly as possible so nobody can see; so nobody knows that everything isn’t perfect.
The thing is that dreams are not perfect because they are truly a part of us, just like our children. There will be losses and failures but we cannot, as dreamers, stop dreaming out of fear of those losses or wipe them away and pretend they didn’t happen any more than we can pretend a child who no longer is able to be with us physically never existed in the first place. We are all blessed to have our children and our dreams for a time that is not determined by us. This is painful and challenging and often causes us to be angry at the One who gave them to us in the first place. But the thing is that the length of time we have them is not what makes the great. What makes them great is the fact that they exist at all.
If you have dreams you’ve realized, I would love to hear about them! If you, like me, have had to let dreams go, I would love to hear about that as well. How did you move on? What has that done to your faith? Are you still being sucked into the vortex of pain from these losses or have you been able to find your way out of the woods to the sunlight? Reach out to me. Tell me your dreams realized or not. Maybe we can help each other attain new dreams we never thought possible!